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Manufacturing News, July 2018

Companies across the Black Country have been experiencing cash flow issues in recent months. A new quarterly economic survey has revealed. The survey was carried out by the Black Country Chamber of Commerce with the Black Country Local Enterprise Partnership and in manufacturing 75% of respondents reported either improved or constant levels of cash flow in the second quarter of this year, a significant fall from 90% in the previous quarter.

Cash flow is also proving to be a concern amongst manufacturing companies at a national level. In the months following the collapse of Carillion, manufacturers across the Black Country have reported issues surrounding cash flow and late payment, particularly those who were involved in the supply chain network.

The chamber’s chief executive Corin Crane said: ‘’As a chamber, we must work with local businesses to help ensure that they are on top of their cash flow so that they may realise their potential for growth, which in turn will boost the Black Country economy. I would encourage any companies that have concerns about their cash flow to contact us and explore the full range of support that’s available”

Black Country manufacturers have continued to see a rise in export sales for a third consecutive quarter, with 93% recording increased or constant levels for the second quarter. In a wider context, this is up by four points on the quarter and 13 points on the last 12 months. This rise is in contrast to the national data that reports a decrease in manufacturing export sales.

Official inward investment statistics recently published by the Department for International Trade, show that, in 2017-2018, the West Midlands region had the most number of foreign direct investment projects of all UK regions outside London and the South East. In the Black Country, there were 11 successful FDI projects in 17/18 that have created 1,174 new jobs and safeguarded a further 61, with over half of these projects were in manufacturing industries, reflecting that these sectors remain a crucial part of our economy.

The number of FDI projects in the Black Country decreased in 17/18 compared to the previous year, down 31% from 16 projects. This validates the perceived uncertainty reported in the quarterly economic survey for Q2 2018, leading to decreases in training investment and potentially aggravated by weak domestic sales and ingoing issues with cash flow and poor payment practice.

A super-strength alloy could help build resilient spacecraft, wind turbines and racing cars after a team successfully developed a lab technique for commercial production.

Scientists and engineers at the Manufacturing Technology Centre in Coventry and Towcester-based Sandwell UK, a leading surface engineering and metal coating company, developed the ultra-resilient alloy using the latest shot-peening techniques.

During shot peening, operators fire shot particles at metal to produce beneficial stress layers that strengthen its mechanical properties. The engineers used the latest techniques to develop a process that results in a highly-resilient nano-structured surface on a Nickel alloy, suitable for the most high-fatigue environments. Research funded by Innovate UK is continuing, but potential applications include spacecraft, satellites, other aerospace uses, Formula One cars and highly-loaded wind-turbine components.

The new commercial production process could also benefit Sandwell’s oil and gas clients, the team said. Another result of the nano-structure surface is anti-bacterial properties, making it suitable tor medical applications and implant parts. The process is a significant step forwards in understanding nano-structure transformations in metals and alloys, said MTC technology director Ken Young.